“‘But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord’” (Jonah 2:9, NIV).
[Thought questions for Eager to Forgive May 8, 2013]
1. The poetry of Jonah. Is the entire book of Jonah or just the song he writes from the belly of the fish a work of dramatic poetry? What are some blessings of having poetry throughout Scripture? Since Hebrew poetry doesn’t rhyme, what are some clues to tell you that Jonah’s prayer is indeed poetry? Have you ever tried expressing your thoughts to God using parallel structure and other techniques of Biblical poetry? Why not try it?
2. Jonah disobeyed God. If God called you to take up a ministry for Him in Chicago, Miami Beach, or San Francisco, would you gladly follow His leading? What if the call involved only a few days visiting in a big city and preaching God’s word? Could there be camp meeting speakers this year who would rather go anywhere else than to the camp meeting that has invited them to come? When a leadership opening develops in your church, do you start coming up with excuses for not accepting the position, if it is offered to you? How different are you and I, sometimes, from Jonah?
3. What was Jonah’s problem? Was Jonah was apparently a faithful follower of God? Do you think he followed God’s rules and did the work that was appropriate to the tribes of the northern kingdom? What was the reputation of the city of Nineveh, where Jonah was called? Do you think Jonah was fully aware of that city’s corruption and wickedness? Have you ever been tossed overboard and swallowed by a giant fish because of your disobedience to God? Why not? Why was Jonah the only prophet who was treated as he was?
4. How did this happen? Why did the Lord allow a threatening storm to strike the small ship where Jonah was a passenger escaping from his assignment? Even more important, why were the sailors so eager to keep Jonah safe from the hazards of the storm? Why did they give respect to Jonah when he told them what they needed to do for a safe journey to continue. Can a man or woman like you ever escape God’s commands? If we don’t obey God, what will be the consequences?
5. Jonah’s Psalm. Take another look at the second chapter of Jonah. What do you think it might have felt like to Jonah when he was plunged into the briny water and began sinking to the bottom? What do you think Jonah’s first thought was when he saw the big mouth of a sea creature opening wide enough to swallow him? How was he able to come up with such profound and beautiful thoughts while confined to the insides of a fish as he did in this work of poetry? Have you ever experienced God’s working directly in your life to bring you close to Him?
6. Success. The first time God called Jonah to Nineveh, what was Jonah’s response? What about the second time? What happened when Jonah finally arrived at Nineveh? Did his experience in the deep water make him a better preacher? Were the people convinced of his honesty and of the truth of his message? Can you imagine the pagan political leaders of the city bowing down and worshiping God? Is God waiting for willing workers to preach with fortitude as Jonah did to the lost and drowning souls around us?
7. Ooops. After such a mighty performance, what should Jonah have done? What did he do instead? Can you understand why Jonah might have been so irritated and upset with the people of Nineveh? After delivering a series of mighty sermons, what attitude should he have had toward those who were converted? Instead, what did Jonah want more than anything else? You can end this story any way you want to. How do you think Jonah responded to his experience in Nineveh when he’d had more time to think about it? What clues led you to this conclusion?